Balta’s fourth RBI of the night extended TCU’s lead to six runs in the eighth inning, but his biggest hit came in the seventh inning.
Balta’s two-run double off the outfield wall scored first-year second baseman Coby Boulware and sophomore third baseman Conner Shepherd to make it a 4-1 ballgame. Balta’s eight RBIs during the tournament lead all players.
“Balta had great back-to-back at-bats tonight,” Landestoy said. “He’s going a great job of seeing pitches up and capitalizing on them. It gives me confidence hitting behind him to take advantage and ambush pitchers.”
The Frogs received impressive performances from pitchers returning from injury in juniors Sean Wymer and Durbin Feltman.
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle called on Wymer to get the job done tonight. Heading into tonight’s game, Wymer sat at seventh in the conference in individual pitching with an earned run average of 3.80 while limiting opponent’s batting average to .247.
“We played an outstanding ballgame tonight,” Schlossnagle said. “Sean did a great job pitching out of jams and limiting damage.”
Wymer found himself in a jam early in the first inning. Two singles from West Virginia left fielder Braden Zarbinsky and right fielder Darius Hill plus a groundout by centerfielder Brandon White put runners on the corners with one out. Wymer was able to induce a double play ball to get out of the inning unscathed.
In Wymer’s five innings of work, he allowed one earned run on six hits. He fanned five batters, hit two and walked none in an 85-pitch outing.
“It was exciting,” Wymer said. “I’ve been asking for the ball for the past two or three weeks. I just went out and gave it my all. I didn’t have my curveball tonight but the changeup played well for me.”
Following a scoreless first inning, the Horned Frogs broke the scoreless tie in the second inning. Junior center fielder Johnny Rizer lead off the inning with his second triple of the season to deep left center and later scored on a sacrifice fly from sophomore catcher Zach Humphreys.
The Mountaineers responded in the fourth inning. Wymer plucked West Virginia’s first baseman Marques Inman for his second hit batter of the night and second baseman Kyle Gray singled to put runners on first and second. Both runners advanced on a groundout from designated hitter Tyler Doans and Inman scored on a groundout by catcher Ivan Gonzalez.
TCU regained the lead in the fifth inning as West Virginia’s starting pitcher began to fade. Isaiah Kearns limited the Horned Frogs to one run on one hit in his first four innings of work but allowed three hits in the fifth inning to push momentum back in TCU’s favor.
“Overall he did a really good job of locating his fastball tonight,” designated hitter Michael Landestoy said. “He kept it away and had the fastball really under control and had the slider and changeup against lefties. He got ahead in the count and when we had a chance to do damage, he made a pitch and cut out the inning.”
First-year shortstop Adam Oviedo led off the inning with a single into left field. He advanced to second off a single from first-year second baseman Coby Boulware. The bases were loaded following a single by junior left fielder Josh Watson and Balta flew out to right field, scoring Oviedo.
Kearns finished the night with two earned runs allowed on four hits in five innings of work. He struck out five Horned Frogs and walked three.
Kearns’ replacement, Jackson Wolf, hit Shepherd to begin the seventh inning and walked Boulware before Cody Wood replaced him. Wood surrendered two earned runs on three hits as TCU extended their lead to five runs in the seventh inning.
Wolf allowed two earned runs in his one-inning outing, walking two batters and striking out one. Wood allowed two earned runs on three hits in 1.1 innings of work.
Sophomore pitcher Jake Eissler replaced Wymer in the sixth inning. Eissler threw three scoreless innings, allowing only three hits fanning three Mountaineers and walking two.
Feltman replaced Eissler in the ninth inning, pitching for the first time since Apr. 27. After he issued a leadoff walk, he struck out the side to secure the victory.
“It’s a huge lift for our team to see the All-American closer get back on the field,” Schlossnagle said. “He was a little rusty but we’re glad to have him back.”
The victory marks TCU’s third win over West Virginia this season in four tries.
“We’ve played really well against them,” Schlossnagle said. “There’s no specific reason to it. They have a great offensive club, are well coached and are well equipped to make it deep in this tournament.”
TCU has the luxury to rest tomorrow as Texas Tech and West Virginia battle in the elimination game.
“We’re definitely going to get some rest,” Schlossnagle said. “We won’t practice but we may get a lift in. We’ll try to stay on schedule as we normally would.”
TCU will face the winner between the Red Raiders and Mountaineers Saturday at 12:30 p.m. A victory will push TCU to the championship game Sunday.